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New entry-level C-Class for SA

2009-02-13 11:15

Wilmer Muller

Mercedes-Benz South Africa is going “green” (or rather “blue”) with the introduction of its first BlueEFFICIENCY derivative here.

The German carmaker is coming “clean” with the C-Class by adding BlueEFFICIENCY versions of the sedan and estate models to the range.

Not to be confused with Merc’s BlueTEC diesel banner, the BlueEFFICIENCY strategy is about optimising existing models to improve fuel economy and reduce C02 emissions. 

The first SA-built Mercedes to get the BlueEFFICIENCY tag is the C180 Kompressor – which is in fact a completely new model. 

Not only does it feature a new engine, but it replaces the outgoing C180 Kompressor as the entry-level to the C-Class range – without changes to the price.

With BlueEFFICIENCY Mercedes has reduced the high-volume C180 Kompressor’s fuel consumption by up to 12%. Mercedes claims an average fuel consumption figure of 6.7 litres per 100 km (for the manual model) and new emission figures are 159 and 173 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. 

To achieve this Mercedes gave the car a smaller engine (although it retains the C180 Kompressor nomenclature) by downsizing the unit from 1.8 to 1.6-litres. The good news though is that power and torque figures are unchanged at 115 kW and 230 Nm. 

Weigh-less

However, take note that BlueEFFICIENCY isn’t just about a re-engineered engine – it’s about less weight and better aerodynamics too. For example weight is reduced by up to 32 kg.  

This is thanks to changes such as a thinner windscreen which tips the scale at a low 1.2kg and weight-optimising of the noise-insulating lining of the firewall.

Now buyers may be concerned that noise intrusion is greater on this model, but Mercedes says none of these weight-saving techniques have compromised cabin noise. 

Mercedes also equips the car with wheels each weighing about 1.8kg less than conventional light-alloy wheels.

The car’s drag coefficient has also been cut from 0.27 to 0.25. This was achieved by giving the car a smooth underbody cladding, partially blocking of the grille, sealing the joins between the bonnet and the headlights, adopting a more aerodynamic wheel design and lowering the suspension by 15mm.

Other under the skin improvements include a new power steering system that is controlled on a needs-driven basis and a reworked rear axle with low-friction bearings. Another plus is the longer final drive ratio – 2.87 : 1 instead of 3.07 : 1.

Real world

The C-Class’s trip computer also now indicates to drivers when a gearchange is required, which according to Mercedes can boost fuel saving with as much as 15%.

The weight-saving and improved aerodynamics together with better driving habits will give drivers much better fuel economy in the real world.

Potential buyers might be concerned about C180 Kompressor’s smaller engine, but the average driver will hardly notice they are driving a C180 Kompressor with a different engine than before. Also, in all honesty, you would never anyway buy a C180 Kompressor because you are a power-hungry petrolhead!

However, Mercedes deserves credit for taking this bold step to replace one of its best-selling models with a more fuel-efficient derivative with lower C02 emissions.

Just as car manufacturers are evolving their model line-ups with “greener” alternatives, car buyers need to become more conscious about these efforts and change their buying habits too. 

Pricing
C180 Kompressor BlueEFFICIENCY Sedan: R314 000
C180 Kompressor BlueEFFICIENCY Estate: R323 000          

At a glance: the BlueEFFICIENCY C-Class models

Lightweight construction
- Weight-optimised, laminated windscreen with Maybach technology
- Firewall insulation with varying material thicknesses
- Forged lightweight wheels

Aerodynamics
- Full underbody panelling with a smooth surface
- Partially shrouded radiator grille
- Sealed joins at the headlamps
- Lightweight wheels with aerodynamic design
- Lowered suspension

Energy management
- Energy-saving control of the power steering's servo pump

Drive
- Downsized four-cylinder petrol engine with the same output
- Six-speed manual transmission with overdrive characteristics
- Final drive with low-friction bearings and differential gears
- Longer final-drive ratio

Display concept
- Newly developed gearshift and current fuel consumption display in the cockpit 

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